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(photo credit: AP)
UNITED NATIONS — Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday the country must move forward with the Mideast peace process and try to promote stability with all its neighbors despite the turbulence in the region.
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Barak spoke to reporters briefly after meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The meeting took place as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was announcing that he would remain president but was handing his powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman.
"We have to continue the whole time to look for ways to move forward in this new reality because the alternatives are more complicated, more complex and more dangerous from any other option," Barak said. "We have to continue to move towards trying to find arrangements with all our neighbors."
Barak said he would not respond to what is happening in Egypt, explaining that "it's up to the Egyptian people to find a way and to do it according with their own constitution, norms and practices."
Barak said that the recent events in Egypt and elsewhere make a lot of Israelis "feel weak-kneed."
"Israel is strong, although we do have to follow things very carefully and make sure that Israel remains strong and to upgrade our security situation," he said. "That said, the reality will not change for the better if we will sink into inaction. We have to move forward all the time with the peace process. We have to diminish tensions."
Barak said he and Ban discussed prospects by the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers and the international community to move forward on the stalled Mideast peace process and recent developments in Egypt and North Africa.
The Quartet met last Saturday in Munich and expressed regret at Israel's
decision to end a 10-month moratorium on construction in settlements in
the West Bank and east Jerusalem which led to the collapse of
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks just weeks after they had restarted in
September. The US, UN and EU and others have called for urgent progress
on efforts to press Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks.
Barak said Israel recently approved a set of confidence-building
measures and is ready to open immediate discussions with the
Palestinians on how to establish security arrangements with the future
Palestinian state. Ultimately, he said, both sides have to deal with the
core outstanding issues face-to-face "in order to have a breakthrough
or to find what could be done if a full agreement cannot be achieved."